31 October 2011

Travelogue: Searching for Las Diosas de Espana (y France)

"She'll find you."

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been more purposely exploring the cities and churches and caminos of Western Spain and Eastern France (around the Pyrenees). I’ve been a bit frustrated because what and who I seek has been hidden and/or forgotten, and I’ve had to look hard. I’ve had to learn and still am learning to see more clearly Her signs.

She’s there and everywhere, and as my friend Barbara reminded me, She's looking for me too.

At Lourdes

Lourdes took my breath away. “Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou” said the Lady of Lourdes to Bernadette. Bernadette said she saw a small woman, and when Bernadette asked Her who She was, She said She was the immaculate conception. She is parthenogenisis! Bernadette had 18 visions in total, and at the site of the visions – a Cave in Lourdes, France – healing happens. I came with a strong intention to heal my/our/women’s bodies from the violence we’ve survived. As I walked into the Cathedral to see Bernadette’s relic and then into the Grotto to touch the sacred stones there, I heard “healing generations.” My traveling companion Lisa heard, “replenish the spring of your soul.” We cried and sang and washed ourselves in the miraculous spring water. I sent out all the love and healing to my family and communities, especially the women – my mothers, sisters, and daughters – and to the pain that has been caused by patriarchy, hierarchy, and domination ways of being. I paused to cleanse my body and the scars I carry in my shoulders, womb, vulva...everything.

We stopped for a local beer (canya) in St Jean de la luz (French side of the Basque country), and then headed to San Sebastian. There in the old town, I ventured into the oldest churches, one of them dedicated to the Black Madonna (o Maria Escura) Herself. All around the town too, I saw Her presence with “Mari” written on the walls, and with the Ocean everywhere, I sensed too She was near.
Mari's Island near Bermeo

Driving through Viscaya, we made our way to the mountains near the seas, the places where Mari spent some of Her time. Basque mythology (my friend Liana sent me her paper on this!) says that Mari went to these caves during certain times of the year.  I've seen images of Her red hair and the moon and moonlight weaving together. It seems to me that caves and Mari go together like Persephone and the underworld, like sweatlodges and women, like wombs and birth and rebirth. As I climbed to a little church on an island in Viscaya, I felt the wind and heard the crashing waves and touched the sacred Earth. I felt the fire in me stir up (and I once again wanted to dye my hair flaming red). And, before we drove back to Bilbao, I left a prayer for clear vision, for Mari eyes.
In San Sebastian, Basilica

These places I’ve been traveling and exploring as I search for my Dark Mothers have been overwhelmingly beautiful. Sometimes, I simply feel delightful; other times, I feel the growing pains.

24 October 2011

Travelogue: From BCN to the Pyrenees

I’m sitting on the porch of this farm, listening to Beirut and Sigur Ros. The kitten is here with me, climbing the chairs, a ladder, and my legs every now and then and trying to drink my coffee I made this morning with the Italian cafĂ© maker. I was dancing and stretching a bit earlier in the strong sun, which felt so nice. It’s quite cold now and Autumn is very here. The sheep and chickens and vegetables are growing nearby. And, I can hear the dogs fighting over the Spanish chorizo I snuck them. There’s something about this farm life and community that I just love. However, there’s a responsibility here in taking care of all these things that I find quite heavy. I miss the Abundant Table community and the mothering sensibility I experience with the women there.

We are here in Sils, just a bit south of Girona, on our way to Cadaques and then on the Pyrenees. We had not planned on staying so long, but it’s been a couple days here, and it’s felt good. We’ve rested a lot and feasted a lot. Combined with the music and new friends (from Denmark, HK, Spain, and Berkeley even), the time here has been refreshing for the journey. This trip has been longer than any other I’ve taken, and I’m reminded to pause in between the many adventures. Every new adventure brings with it a new sense of the word “trip.”
Yesterday, we ventured to Figueres to the see the Dali Museum. It was a labyrinthine and surreal place, of course, and I was in awe of this man and his life work. I loved that he’s Spanish, and that I have some cultural, but limited, connection with him. It’s a connection I don’t share as much with Greek or Italian culture, art, etc. While traveling in Greece and Italy, I’m doubtful that I should even be there, like my studies of their culture and whatnot isn’t really for me, like I was taught they were my history, but they really aren’t. However, in Spain, I hear the word “should,” as in I should be here studying and observing this place and these people, because they are my place and people. These are my ancestors, no? Even their jovial and playful and passionate way of being resonates with me.

I’m proud to say that we’ll be driving up to the Basque country afterall. We will go into France a bit to go around the Pyrenees and see Lourdes, and then the plan is to come back to Spain to see San Sebastian and Bilbao.

I’ve been doing some research on the Dark Mother Mari up there, and there’s a cave we will visit. I hope to find more places associated with Her, and I’m sure we will.

17 October 2011

Travelogue: in Spain (again)

Spain: I specifically chose to fly into Barcelona on my way to Malta. I carried the intention to practice my Spanish, visit Montserrat, and simply be around the people with whom I share some cultural heritage. Whether my Filipina Spanish colonized grandmother, Mexican-Spanish grandfather, or Spanish (via New Mexico) grandmother, there’s a lot of that Spanish blood in me. I tend to think of it as my colonizer side, but I also cherish it. It’s my ticket into the European story. And, I like this European story. I’ve studied the West and their cannon for most of my life. Cervantes to Picasso to Dali (all these men!), I am interested in how the Spanish live and interact with each other as well as other countries.

Before I flew to Milan and then Malta, I spent a couple days in Barcelona mostly walking around the Sagrada Familia and hanging out with my fellow hostelers. Late nights in the discotecas, siestas, working through jetlag – it was a whirlwind couple days.

Now, returning to BCN has been a different experience. My traveling companion and I couchsurfed this first week here, and because of this, we’ve experieced a pretty Catalan life with Catalan food, some Catalan and Spanish language, and just overall a homier and local feel. The wine, the beer, the lamb, the cheese with honey and walnuts, the bread and Spanish omelette have been delicious! Our couch surfing friend lives near Gracies Station and a lovely little walk to the BCN beach, which we’ve visited a couple times. Somewhere in Crete, I lost my bathing suit bottoms, but I’ve been wearing some pretty chonies (underwear) and no one seems to care here. Altogether, my traveling friend and I agree that we are beach bums, and I like to think that this trip I’ve been chasing summer.

This week too I ventured out of the city to Montserrat. This beautiful mountain and the monastery and hikes and hermitages all up in it was stunning and perfect. I did a bit of a detox and made some veg soup. I took the time as a whole like a retreat. Wandering the mountain to the Santa Cova where the Black Madonna of Montserrat was hidden and wandering into the Basilica where another Black Madonna is held, I listened to the men’s choir, meditated a bit, and considered how I could along with the many pilgrims I saw there, seek healing from the Dark Mother.

I was asked a few times if I was religious, and my response was, no, probably more heretical. I just like the Dark Mother. Her story in part just really fascinates me. Some say she is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and some others say she is Mary Magdalene, mother of Sarah Tamar. I like thinking she’s both. Like the Virgin of Guadalupe who is also Tonantzin and the Dark Mother of the Americas, Mary of Montserrat is a mezcla and a mestiza like me!!!

A lot of my time this week, I’ve also practiced speaking a lot of Spanish with these couch surfing friends. One met me in Monsterrat and gave me a ride back to Barcelona where we made our way to the Beach again. He only spoke Spanish, and for me, it was particularly challenging. His accent and the speed in which he talked gave me a headache and made me really feel like a beginner. Nevertheless, by the end of the day, I understood more and could speak more freely. A lot of the challenge was for me giving up on this belief that I needed to completely understand. I felt like I was kind of starving or suffocating, but I realized that a better analogy is not feasting or breathing 100% oxygen. It was about letting go of the allusion that anyone and myself speaks the same language at all. I needed to let go of the old way of thinking that language and complete understanding go together.

I will say, that as my brother and mother have their birthday this mid month of October weekend, I’m beginning to desire Autumn and sweaters and warm drinks and pumpkins. I’m not sure how the Spanish do Autumn and Halloween or Dia de los Muertos, but I’m ready to paint my face and have some mulled wine.

12 October 2011

Travelogue: Skotino Cave and Lesvos and Delphi

Our last day in Crete we drove a little east of Heraklion to the Skotino cave. There we found a massive opening in the Earth that goes down four levels. There was also an altar with images of Mary, and so I added Tonantzin (the Virgin of Guadalupe). I had kept an image of her in my journal since the Women’s Spirituality Retreat at CIIS some months back. It felt fitting.

We walked down into the cave and started singing, “Ancient Mother, I hear you calling.” In the darkness, the face of a woman appeared on the formation in the middle of the cave. I imagined people of the past singing and dancing in this cave. It would have been an epic place for it.

Next day found me in Lesvos. On the ferry ride over (12 hours), I met another Thodoros, a computer scientist, and we talked at length about the addiction of virtual reality, facebook, marketing, and cia knowledge. As I slept on the floor of the ferry, my dreams dwelt on the need of privacy as well as living in the present reality all around me. Sunrise that day was on the island of Chios (a stop on the way to Lesvos), and sunset was in Molivos.

Exiting the ferry, I met Matina, a beautiful Greek woman and fellow traveler. She showed me around Mitilini (the port city) and then in Molivos (a less than 2 hour bus ride from Mitilini). We spent time lingering in the sea (Aegean), Turkey right there across the way. She also took me to the hot springs, and I felt my well-traveled body relaxing. Her friend in Molivos owns a beautiful shop in the main market area, selling Indian and natural, colorful clothes and jewelry. The center piece was a gorgeous pregnant figure, and from her window and balcony, we watched the sunset on the water. Breathtaking.

In Molivos, I stayed at the quaint Greek home of Bianca, a German tour guide of sorts living in Molivos since April. She took me to some quaint bars as well! Altogether, she was invaluable, helping me figure out where and how I wanted to go, showing me how to hitchhike (on motos and in cars!), giving me her bed, feeding me Greek breakfasts, and letting me do a tasting of her Ouzo collection.

One of my main purposes in going to Molivos and Lesvos in general was of course, Sappho. I read the fragment of her poem,“Because I prayed the words: I want” throughout my stay. I also traveled to Lesvos to meet up with my professor, Carol Christ. Carol showed me her home in Molivos, her two little dogs, a Taverna in Petra (the neighboring village), a good Aegean sea swim, and a lovely place called Octopus on the water. We spoke about my program at CIIS, the issues at the school, and the joys of our studies and lives.

Delphi: I left Molivos so satisfied, and I arrived the next day in Delphi very ready to ask the Oracle a question. I felt like the whole lot of time in Greece was leading up to Delphi, a little mini pilgrimage. And despite the fact that I prepped nearly 3 weeks for Delphi, I still needed to pause and “go down” into Athena’s temple to clarify my question. Sitting at the foot of the temple, I found myself connecting with Athena’s birth. Her mother is often missing from her story, and instead we read that she came from Zeus’ head. There is more to this story of course, and yet in this oppressive mythology, I relate to Athena. I too feel like my Mother has been missing because patriarchy replaced her with a Father that I must be reborn through. But, now I say, “No. I don’t need a rebirthing through a man or men. The womb of my mother (literal and figurative) is more than good enough. And, so, I asked Athena, “Who is (y)our mother?”

Walking from her temple to the museum (to delay my Oracle visit) to the (finally) Oracle in Apollo’s temple, I formed my question. I approached the Oracle, and asked, “How am I a mother?” The change in words was so simple but so profound for me, and the response I heard was simultaneously “You are”/ “I am.” I am my mother; you are my mother; we are mothers.

09 October 2011

A little travelogue

From Malta to Molivos, September and early October 2011
I’m learning how to really enjoy this “medi” life. Since arriving in Malta’s airport in the city of Valetta, I’ve met a lot of folk, ate a lot of food, and drank a lot of good things.


Malta is hot, and even when it’s windy in mid-September, very humid. I could have worn my bathing suit all day and been pretty happy. But, on the flipside, Malta’s still pretty conservative and Christian. I brought a scarf for all the churches even though I would have liked to been naked.

I went with a pilgrimage of almost 40 women, mostly over 50 years of age, and we stayed in the ritzy part of Malta: St. Julian’s. Being with women my mother’s and grandmother’s age isn’t all that bad. It’s a pretty luxurious journey with healthy food in vast quantities and bus rides as close as we can get to the ancient ruins and a relaxed daily schedule that includes rest time, or naps.

I also had the benefit of feeling very young, pretty, exotic (all the women were far fairer skinned than I), and adventurous. Lucky for me, I have my tanned color from working on the farms and sunning at the beaches of So Cal. My dark color and anglo nose perhaps allow me to so fluidly switch cultures. The Maltese might of thought I was Maltese, the Italians, Italian, and the Greeks, Greek. At the same time, if they don’t realize I am from the U.S., they tend to hold me to the social codes of their country (more conservative ones perhaps) and when I don’t follow them (like wearing sleeveless dresses or dancing in the streets with the older white women of the pilgrimage), I sometimes get harsher looks than if I was white skinned. On the other side, I can often feel accepted as family, just because of my darker complexion. I don’t know why I can write so at length about this subject right now except that I think it is because I am exceptionally dark at this point in my life, and I like it.

And, I think my dark color works in my favor in the end because I want to be family wherever I go, especially outside the U.S. and predominately white culture. On the whole, I feel I’ve spent too much energy hiding my skin color in order to pass for white(r) in the world that privileges whiteness. Sadly, for too long I have also felt that I don’t pass in the family of (mixed) color. But, I am a person of mixed color, and I don’t want to be as much smart and in control of myself (emotions, body)— like I believe I was taught in the white man’s world – as I want to be passionate and embodied (dancing, healing, sensing) – like I believe is valued in the world of “color.” Therefore, like Anzaldua and many other mestizas before me, I stand here with a foot in many worlds because my ancestors come from multiple cultures, and I celebrate my mixedness, my liminality.

So, Malta. We visited “all” the temples devoted to a sacred feminine figure. These temples are the oldest structures of the world, predating Stonehenge, the stones in the Gallapogoes. Do you hear that? The oldest. I had to say it aloud when we were at one of the structures preparing for our ritual. I said to my fellow pilgrim, Grouse, “So we are at one of the oldest structures in the world, and it is in the shape of and dedicated to a Divine Feminine, to a Goddess.” That still blows my mind. From the Hypogeum to Mnjdra, we traversed the Island of Malta and Gozo to pay our respects to these ancient stones, ancestors, and Mother. Along the way, I wrote a song and shared it with everyone, singing:

Ancient Stones, Ancient Stones in the Earth

With Water on Your hips,

Fire on Your lips,

Wind upon Your cliffs,

And Your Spirit I feel on my finger tips

When I touch you.

Ancient Love, Ancient Love that is now

With Your breath upon my face

Your voice fills this place

Your body is the space

And Your arms I feel like a Mother’s embrace

When You hold me.

As I shared before, one of the most breathtaking moments for me was when we were visiting the Sleeping Lady in the Archaeological Museum in Valetta, and I heard one women whisper to another, “She looks like us.” I too felt this when I saw her and more and more when I saw the Black Madonna in Gozo. Yes, the cliffs of Gozo were impressive and swimming in the Mediterranean on the limestone of Malta was enjoyable. And, the Maltese and Gozo honey and wine were delightful. But, if you go to Malta and miss connecting with the Ancient Stones and Goddess there, I frankly think you’ve missed something miraculous.

The Greek Islands:

Flying from Malta to Athens was a bit traumatic. For one, Air Malta has a monopoly on this flight, and not only did we have to pay about 150 euro, we also had to leave the beautiful hotel in Valetta at (freakin like) 3 am in the morning. Ridiculous. And then Athens itself is such a city, and I’m really not into cities these days. We chanced upon a lovely little community of like minded folk with a woman, Maria, as their matriarch. We also did happen to arrive on a day that the new Acropolis Museum was free and then the Acropolis itself happened to be free the next two days (awesome!). However, after a day, we were ready to leave and flee to Crete, the Greek Island of the south.

The two of us landed in Heraklion after taking the overnight ferry. It was a sobering night for sure. With people strewn about everywhere and us in our eye covers and blankets trying to ignore Beverly Hill Billies and then the Greek news, the boat almost spit us out in Crete. After talking with one of the ferry workers, we headed to his friend Konstas, who lent us a car for the week. We were in a bind really. My traveling companion does not drive manual (the only car to rent in Europe it seems) and I had not brought my driver’s license. No problem, said Kostas, and a half hour later, we had our car, which we named Rebirthing Athena. That day we went to visit Knossos Palace and the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion to see the Snake Goddess (among other beauties). We slept at the home of new couchsurfing friends (wait for the very Greek names of): Yannis, Thodoros, and Odysseus.

Next day, we headed down south to Hippie town Matala. It is in this beautiful region’s caves (Neolithic, later used as Roman graves and later) where the likes of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell played music. We went (yes yes yes! Topless!) swimming in the cove and later wandered to a bar called Hakuna Matata for local beer and food. It is there that we met Dimitrius who gave us a stunning room for the night, overlooking all of Matala. I was able to work on all that PhD work I have for this semester, and I really can’t imagine a better writing spot.

Both my traveling companion and I could have stayed a summer in Matala, but the next day we left to see Preveli, where the sea parallels and then meets the river. We left the magic of Preveli for the seaside city of Chania where we met Kalli (no not the Hindu Goddess), the amazing leo of Greece! We shared a delicious Greek meal including Squash Blossoms and Raki before heading out back through the “R town” as we call it to Heraklion. It was a homecoming to our Heraklion men for sure.

Next day, we drove out to the Skotino cave. And that I will have to write about a bit later. Ciao!

On a side note, I’ve met a lot of men, and none of it has been a great experience. Some, good. Some, bad. But none great. In Barcelona I met the Argentinian who demanded that I only dance with him. I later blocked him from my facebook account. In Milan, I met Michelle, who I couchsurfed with. He was not a romantic interest, just a place to stay with a friend, but he told me in the morning that it was hard for him to keep his hands off me. Like I needed to hear that. In Bologna, there was the guy who kept staring at me even though his girlfriend was right there beside him. In Athens, the man that would not stop staring even when we stared him down or the French man who won’t stop calling even though I told him my phone doesn’t work here or the man who took off his shirt at a party. In Crete, the man from Lesvos who kissed way too hard. See, pretty slim pickings.

The best men moments were at Delphi with the cute 70 year old guy and in Milano, when I briefly sat next to a guy who seemed worth pursuing. I’m in contact with both; we’ll see how that goes. Altogether, there’s been two men with the same birthday and a lot of men that I just find ….repulsive. And, then there’s the fact that I’m not even really here looking for men at all. They seem, looking back, like obstacles in my way. Well, Ganesha, obstacle remover, please help me by removing the disgusting men from my path or helping me choose new paths.